In Egypt suspicion has fallen on an Islamic State faction for the massacre on November 24 at the Al-Rawdah Sufi mosque in Sinai. I'll have more to post on the massacre, but here I want to focus on just one part of an Associated Press report, filed today by Hamza Hendawi with Maggie Michael, which discusses the faction. This faction is looking to me more like an emerging splinter group. Fuel for this suspicion is that Islamic State uncharacteristically didn't take credit for the massacre, even though there are strong indications it was an IS-type attack at least in its kinetic details -- except for two deviations, which I'll mention in the next post. But both deviations could easily point to an IS faction.
Even before the attack, Egyptian newspapers reported the emergence of the Hazimiyoun faction in Egypt. One quoted a prosecution official saying detained Egyptian IS suspects told their interrogators that they are followers of the Hazimiyoun and consider some IS leaders as infidels.
The faction is named after a radical cleric, Ahmad bin Omar al-Hazimi, who has been imprisoned in his home country of Saudi Arabia since 2015. It considers as infidels — and therefore as legitimate to kill — all Muslims who do not accept the Islamic State group's interpretation of Islam.
Even further, it says those who don't consider such people as infidels are also infidels deserving of death. Al-Hazimi himself is not known as an IS member but his ideology has gained support within IS ranks.
The Islamic State group is notorious for atrocities in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, including against fellow Muslims; the group argues that killings of Muslims are justified when they were fighting IS or cooperating with its enemies or belong to branches of Islam it rejects, like Shiism. In Yemen, four IS suicide bombers struck two mosques filled with worshippers, killing over 130 people in one day in March 2015.
But IS largely argued that Muslims in general, even if they haven't sworn allegiance to IS, are not necessarily legitimate targets, on grounds of "ignorance" — namely, that they may not have the religious knowledge to accept IS. The Hazimiyoun faction rejects the "ignorance" excuse.
The feud within IS has been stoked by the group's military defeats in Iraq and Syria. Hazimiyoun clerics have blamed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his "lenient" ideology for the setbacks.
But the tensions date back to 2015, when IS in Syria executed a number of pro-Hazimiyoun clerics because of their excesses in declaring others infidels.
The more radical free hand has been criticized by al-Qaida-linked groups and other extremists in Egypt. Another militant group fighting the government in Sinai, called Jund al-Islam, said in a recent audio message that it had ambushed an IS patrol to avenge attacks on other Muslims.